Motion to award tender for roundabout at West Valley Road-Confederation Drive intersection passes, but three councillors vote against it, citing cost concerns
Three members of Corner Brook city council held firm on their convictions about the need for and the cost to taxpayers to put a roundabout in the city when the issue came up at Monday night’s council meeting.
Coun. Vaughn Granter, Coun. Linda Chaisson and Coun. Josh Carey voted against a motion to award a tender for construction of a roundabout at the intersection of West Valley Road and Confederation Drive to Marine Contractors at a cost of $914,537.79 (HST included).
But their opposition was not enough to put an end to the plan. Mayor Jim Parsons, Deputy Mayor Bill Griffin, Coun. Bernd Staeben and Coun. Tony Buckle all supported the motion, making way for the construction to go ahead.
The decision was made during council’s first meeting back in chambers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am a supporter of roundabouts. I think they work. But in this particular case, my decision in the past was driven by the fact that it would come in at a cost cheaper ... (but) we're looking at — even before shovels are in the ground — (a) nearly $200,000 overrun.” — Coun. Vaughn Granter
Putting a roundabout at the intersection was a recommendation in a traffic study conducted by the city that identified it as a problem area. Replacing the lights, which have a shorter lifespan than a roundabout, was not considered to result in any savings.
Originally, the city put the cost of the cost-shared project at $865,000, including consulting and engineering fees. But as it was pointed out during the meeting, the cost has increased.
No timeframe for when the roundabout will be installed was given during the meeting.
Staeben said he was skeptical when the project was first announced.
“Not sure whether we really need it or want it,” he said.
But after driving through a roundabout in St. John’s recently, his mind was changed.
“I really saw the roundabout in action … and it seemed to be working really well.”
Granter said his perspective from the beginning was always about cost.
“I am a supporter of roundabouts. I think they work," Granter said. "But in this particular case, my decision in the past was driven by the fact that it would come in as a cost cheaper for the residents of Corner Brook and now we’re looking at — even before shovels are in the ground — (a) nearly $200,000 overrun already.”
Chaisson said a roundabout was presented as a cheaper option, and now it’s not.
“We are over budget right now to start off," Chaisson said. “I will not be supporting this motion tonight based on the cost for the taxpayers of the city of Corner Brook.
Carey said this was the more expensive option.
“At $167,000 over budget, going into a project of this size, this magnitude, we’re also shifting the project now from centre to the right which is going to add some additional costs, which is what we’re seeing here," Carey said. "I’m not really certain what the various variables are, how we’re going to control those variables, so therefore I will not be supporting the motion.
“And I honestly and truly don’t believe that we need a roundabout in that particular area. The traffic, in my opinion, is not sufficient enough to really warrant it.”
Buckle said there would be an overrun.
“But reading up on it, these roundabouts last anywhere from 20 to 25 years. A set of lights lasts 10 years, not counting the maintenance on them. So, if you look at it and have to replace two sets of lights in 20 years, it would pay off that cost alone.”
Griffin said that 30 years ago the same argument of going from a streetlight to roundabout was had over the increase in cost of going from Class A to pavement.
“I think roundabouts are coming and I think we need to get used to it. I don’t have any issue with it,” Griffin said.
Parsons said there are benefits to roundabouts, but he didn’t think one would be put in at any cost.
“So, you have to weigh off whether or not you want to get what’s more or less a permanent solution for that intersection, or a temporary solution without potentially any cost savings," Parsons said.
“I think it’s really a question of, do we go ahead or do we quit and start again. I don’t think there is any cost savings in quitting and starting again.”